When the Pursuit of Money Leads to the Sleaziest Choices

Article excerpt

A POLITICAL LIFE

This column was going to be about how the Left can sometimes be too cynical about the profit motive. I was going to say that the public sector can often be cumbersome and slow to react. I thought I'd recount the tale of a party colleague telling me five years ago that he didn't want the private sector to have any role in the NHS in Wales in any shape or form - until I asked whether that included chemists, opticians, drugs companies and construction firms and suddenly he realised how preposterous his argument was.

I might have added that when ITV was created everyone moaned that a private broadcaster would only ever pander to the lowest common denominator and when Classic FM came along snobs at the BBC clutched their pearls in horror that classical music might be rendered (deep breath) popular. The pearl clutchers were proved wrong by Brideshead Revisited, by Inspector Morse, by Classic FM's own highly successful concerts.

Then came yesterday's front page of The Sun, with its salacious photograph of Reeva Steenkamp and the sensationalised details of the shots ringing out at Oscar Pistorius's house in Cape Town. This was retailing domestic violence as popular entertainment. It was turning a horrific tragedy into a money-spinning sensation. Yes, somewhere deep in the paper there were finely tuned words that condemned what has happened. But in the end the paper's editor, presumably with its proprietor's connivance, made the nastiest, sleaziest set of choices to put that front page together. Nobody has been libelled. No law has been broken. But surely the paper should have been forced to think twice?

And no, it's no excuse that Reeva Steenkamp was a model. Just as those creeps who argue that women who wear high heels and short skirts are "asking for it" deserve to have their Playstations confiscated for six months, so the editor of The Sun should be confined to a Trappist monastery for a while. In the UK two women get killed a week in domestic violence incidents. We've recently changed the law to make it easier to bring prosecutions for domestic violence long before a fatal incident.

In the case of the press, though, the naked pursuit of money, whether to please a distant proprietor or to gratify a lusty public, begrimes us all. Supermarkets, bankers, abattoirs all need regulating if they are not to succumb to the dazzling greed that the profit motive can inspire - and the press needs saving from itself.

Marriage Bill: the edited highlights

In case you were wondering what is happening on the Same Sex Marriage Bill Committee this week, the (very) edited highlights are as follows: Maria Miller would prefer to abolish civil partnerships as only marriage is the "gold standard"; the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwark thinks homosexuality is a moral disorder; Professor Rivers (sadly not Joan Rivers) thinks that if gays are allowed to marry, marriage will come to an end; the Quakers, the Unitarians and some synagogues will perform same-sex marriages; the Methodists and the United Reformed Church will probably get round to them sooner or later; the Church in Wales is definitely (but not officially) up for it; Liberty and Stonewall are concerned about survivor pension rights for same sex couples; and Trans couples have depressingly had the worst deal of all. …